Our bags are ferried to the bus from Aubergo Savoia, followed, eventually, by ourselves. We are then treated to an exciting trip back up these winding, narrow, cliffside roads, past trucks, cars, scooters, and other tour busses. The hairpin turns make the bus' horn as critical a piece of equipment as the steering wheel! And in many cases, squeezing past oncoming traffic makes for the most exciting part of the ride. How the heck is he going to do that? Wow! He did it! And not a scratch! I'm never going to try to drive in Italy, and especially not on any of these Amalfi coast roads!
Bypassing Naples, we wind our way up Vesuvius to the parking lot, which is at around 3800 feet in altitude. The previous tour, 2 weeks ago, found conditions cold and windy. We're prepared for the same, but it's warm and sunny. It's a very easy hike up a wide trail to the crater. There's not all that much to see up here. We're above the clouds, which pretty much obscure our view of Naples and Pompeii.
I hadn't previously been aware that Vesuvius is just an ash and lava cone that formed in the crater of what was once a truly gigantic volcano, Montesomma. Montesomma had been about the size of Mount Etna, 10,000 feet high -- until around 17,000 years ago, when it detonated, blowing away nearly the whole mountain. Vesuvius grew in that crater. It is this relatively small volcano (4,200 foot) that erupted in 79 AD, destroying Pompeii and Herculaneum. You can still see the rim of the Montesomma crater, mostly encircling Vesuvius. On one side, a peak looks a little like a human nose, and is dubbed the Devil's nose. Vesuvius last erupted in 1944, and some of the flow is visible in the valley between Vesuvius and the Montesomma rim.
The trail, and most of the mountain, seems to be made of volcanic ash, a black granular material. There are also some brownish bits, and chunks of solid lava rock. I'm tempted to take a souvenir, but Brigid doesn't want to incur the wrath of any Italian equivalents of Pele (the Hawaiian volcano god).
Back to the bus for the trip to Sorrento.
We stop for lunch at a agritourismo place (Sagento?) near Sorrento. They have a small mixed orchard (we saw figs, pomegranate, grapes, and lemons), a few cows, and at least four dogs. The cows are milked every day, and Maria, part of the family that owns the place, turns that milk into mozzarella and ricotta cheese, daily. She demonstrates how the milk is mixed with rennet, separates into curds and whey, the result is then cooked, the floating curds are skimmed and recooked (ricotta means "re-cooked"), and the remaining curds are then kneaded into mozzarella cheese. She then forms the cheese. Fresh mozzarella is traditionally formed into a circular braid in Sorrento, while the dried form is molded into a teardrop. The resulting cheese then rests in cold water, then in brine. The fresh form is ready to eat, while the dried form is air-dried and can be eaten up to 3 months later. One of the dogs, the "star" of the show (Stella == star) shows up on cue, to beg for some bits of fresh (pre-brining) moz.
We then sit down to a meal of local produce:
Did I mention that they make their own limoncello here? The dessert is very good. They offer saples of their limoncello, both the regular and cream kinds. These are HUGELY better than the stuff we bought at the grocery store in Positano (and unintentionally left in the hotel frig!). We bought some. And we now know, in principal at least, how to make our own. Basically, you just soak lemon zest in Everclear for a few months, then sweeten to taste. I'm not sure how you make the cream kind, but presumably you add some cream?
After lunch, the bus takes us the 5 minute trip to the center of Sorrento, for our precision dump, and two-block hike to Hotel del Corso. Our room, #58, is small, but nice and clean. There's a fairly busy street below our window, wth lots of vehicle noise. And there's a gelato place just below us, with the aroma of freshly-baked cones wafting up through the window...
Time to go meet Robin for our Sorrento orientation walk.
Robin points out the expensive and less-expensive shopping areas. We saw several ineresting places to visit tomorrow. She also points out the laundry place, but we've already done our wash in the bidet, and it's hanging up in the bathroom. If it isn't adequately dry by tomorrow afternoon, we can run them through a coin-op dryer.
After the orientation ends, we shop in the supermercado for something to eat for dinner. Brigid finds some good bread, and we add to that a chunk of emmenthaler cheese (no, it's NOT Italian!), a pear, a couple of apples, a 1 liter box of red wine (for all of €1.50), a 1 liter box of red (blood) orange juice, and a bottle of cola ("real american taste", whatever that means). The wine is mediocre, but of similar or better quality than the more expensive Trader Joe "2-buck-chuck" from home. It's not a very satisfying meal, but it works for me. The location is convenient, though. We eat on the communal balcony, situated next to our room.
For dessert, we visit the gelateria downstairs. I've never seen so many enticing flavors before! I settle on the large cup, with three flavors: wild strawberry, summer berries, and the exotic-sounding "indian fig" (fichi d'India, en Italiano). Brigid gets pistachio and peach. Both of her flavors are wonderful -- the best we've ever tasted. Mine are also excellent -- except for the "indian fig". It's a booby prize. The flavor is okay, but it has these damned seeds in it, which are not chewable. I guess you could swallow them, but ick! Can you imagine eating pomegranate ice cream, complete with pomegranate seeds? Yuck.
We savor our ice cream while sitting outside the gelateria with Lora, and later, Paola joins us, too.
We've decided not to join the trip to Capri tomorrow. It just doesn't sound interesting to us. Instead, we're going to sleep in, and then window-shop in Sorrento.